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Nyetzy May 25th, 2008 08:41 PM

SFO Question
I have a flight departing SFO at 11.22 on a Friday morning. Being an international flight, we have to check in 2 hrs before. Will we be caught in peak hour traffic? How early should we leave? Will be staying at Columbus Ave at SF.

NeoPatrick May 25th, 2008 08:46 PM

ummmm. You left out an important fact here. Are you walking to the airport? Taking a taxi? Public transport? Have a rental car to turn in?

easytraveler May 25th, 2008 09:11 PM

Do you have a lot of luggage?

If not, you could take public transportation. Take the F line to the Ferry Building, then take BART to SFO.

Or you could take a taxi to a BART station and get on BART from there.

Click on the downtown map to enlarge it:

Otherwise, you could take a taxi all the way from the hotel to the airport. About a half hour to 45 minute ride.

For international flights, if you are going economy class, plan on being at the airport a couple of hours before flight time. If you are going business or first class you could cut the time down to an hour or an hour and a half before flight time, since your check in time will be faster.

To be on the safe side, I'd leave the hotel by 8:30am and no later than 9am.

There are some very good restaurants in the international terminal at SFO where you can catch breakfast once you're safely checked in.

Have a safe flight! :)

Kal May 25th, 2008 09:21 PM

Go to your room young man!

Nyetzy May 26th, 2008 12:28 AM

Thanks for your suggestions guys. We will be returning car at SFO. We always go with Avis where there is a drop off, so no issue. It is just the morning traffic rush that's worrying me.

J62 May 26th, 2008 03:19 AM

Morning rush hour traffic is INTO the city. You'll be driving in the opposite direction.

I would leave the hotel around 8:30.

LoveItaly May 26th, 2008 03:34 AM

Personally I would leave the hotel at 8:00am Nyetzy. Drive to SFO, return the rental car, walk to the terminal, check in (how long will the check in line be?). After security you can have coffee and breakfast and relax. But I am one that can not stand feeling rushed and stressed if I am running late when flying somewhere so I would rather give myself some extra time in case of any problem. Anyway that is what I would do. Best regards.

NeoPatrick May 26th, 2008 05:37 AM

Go to my room? HUH? As you can see by the first response other than mine, the supposition was NOT that they were driving themselves and would be returning a car. Isn't that a VERY important piece of information? I sure think I asked without the least bit of snarkiness!

And now we have some good answers that never could have been given until we knew they were driving and had to allow time to return a car. I'm with LoveItaly on this. To be at the check-in by 9:22, I'd leave downtown by 8. Much better to have too much time than not enough.

kleroux May 26th, 2008 07:08 AM

If there are two of you, and you have plenty of time, you can drop one person and your luggage off at the terminal, then you return the rental car and take the tram back to your terminal. Its better to have plenty of time than cut it short and have to worry.

easytraveler May 26th, 2008 07:53 AM

Hi, Nyetzy:

Might I make a suggestion?

Why not stay at an airport hotel? You can return the car the night before without all the luggage. Then take the hotel airport shuttle back to the hotel. Next morning take the hotel shuttle TO the airpot.

By staying on Clumbus, I take it you mean either the Marriott or the Holiday Inn Express. Both these hotel chains have airport hotels, if you are concerned about getting or using hotel points.

NeoPatrick May 26th, 2008 08:05 AM

Wow, easytraveler, your suggestion sounds like a good one to someone who has an early morning flight (and I've done that myself for a 6:30 AM flight), but not for a flight almost at noon? Sorry, I just don't get why anyone would want to give up a final night IN SanFrancisco to stay at an airport hotel.

easytraveler May 26th, 2008 08:24 AM

Patrick: regardless of where the passenger stays the night before, he/she has to be at the airport TWO HOURS before flight time for an international flight. That places the time of arrival at SFO at 9:30am - without the need to return a car.

If they have to return a car then they should arrive at SFO at 9am at the latest.

Which means they have to start out no later than 8:30am.

So, what is there to enjoy in San Francisco before 8am on the day of an international flight? The sunrise? Jogging along the bayshore at 7am? The Marriott at the airport is right along the bay too. In fact the Marriott at the airport is a lot nicer than the Marriott at Fisherman's Wharf.

Anyhow, Nyetzy, it's your choice. Mine was just a suggestion. :)

iamq May 26th, 2008 08:28 AM

I'd leave your hotel by 8:22.

trippinkpj May 26th, 2008 08:29 AM

My daughter just took an international flight to New Zealand from SFO, and said the 2 hours they alloted for check in was just right (they did have extra time). It was on a Sunday at 9pm. I wouldn't get there any later than 2 hours before the flight.
I think Patrick's question was right on, and that Kal was just kidding around. :-)

Kal May 26th, 2008 08:40 AM


I think it was the comment &quot;Are you walking to the airport?&quot; that made me snert peppermint tea.
NeoP and I are big boys and we can take it anyway we like.
I'm sure Fodor's ain't our first rodeo. :))

Billaaaayyyy....are you crazy?
I'm thinking 8:20, 8:21.

Being a nervous nellie flyer especially on Intl flights even tho it's a reverse commute I'd leave SF at 7 and even then have to breath in a brown paper bag.
Ask Mrs Kal. :-]

NeoPatrick May 26th, 2008 08:51 AM

Easytraveler, you missed my point. It's just that it is easy to get up and get to the airport leaving at 8:30, and as you said what are you going to miss anyway -- might as well be returning the car and taking a shuttle that morning as you aren't losing any &quot;valuable&quot; vacation time. But why would you want to give up the evening and night before in San Francisco to be returning a car, shuttling to an airport hotel and probably having dinner in the airport area -- when you could be in the city having a great time. To me, that's cutting your vacation time short by half a day.

StuDudley May 26th, 2008 09:25 AM

&gt;&gt;So, what is there to enjoy in San Francisco before 8am on the day of an international flight? &lt;

Nothing - but how about dinner the night before the flight??

Stu Dudley

easytraveler May 26th, 2008 09:27 AM

Neo: they don't HAVE to give up a night on the town.

Unless they get rip-roaring drunk (which really isn't advisable anyhow the night before a flight of 14+ hours - think of the thirst factor), they can make it to the airport hotel just as easily as getting back to Columbus street.

Most airport rental car lots close at midnight.

Most dinner places in SF stop serving after 9pm.

They can catch the last rental car shuttle bus to the airport if they feel like squeezing things down to the last minute, then call the hotel to pick them up from the airport.

The other alternative - if they plan to party until 2am in the morning - is to park the car at the airport hotel, pay the parking fee, and then return the car the next morning.

Whichever way, it'll be best to fill up the gas tank before going to the airport hotel. There may not be too many gas stations open at 3am in the morning.

If it were me, I'd rather not go through the stress of negotiating city traffic to get to the airport on a morning of the flight, but rather do it the stress-free way by staying near the airport. Besides, now you're talking about negotiating city traffic after partying until 2am in the morning.

Nyetzy: how old are you anyhow? The younger you are the more you should Patrick's options, those are adrenaline rushes for sure. The older you are, the more you should consider less stressful ways to handle this. (Just partially kidding! :) )

Kal May 26th, 2008 09:42 AM

I'm sorry but how CAN you go to SF and NOT get rip roarin' drunk...or is it just me? /:)

NeoPatrick May 26th, 2008 10:03 AM

Thanks easytraveler, I'm over 60, and I guess you've just said that the way I do things would be the way young people do them. (insert happy face here). I'm all with you about avoiding stress in the morning, which is why I love your idea if you have an early morning flight -- but nearly noon? Stress to do a half hour drive with an entire morning to do the half hour drive and return a rental car? I may be old, but I'm not feeble or incompetent!

Meanwhile, let's also not forget that if you're spending the night at an airport hotel, you'll have to check out of your SF hotel by noon the day before. Forget taking a shower or changing clothes for dinner, and start to worry about storing your luggage in your car -- or having to circle back to your hotel to pick it up later. Be sure to be changed for dinner at noon and then spend the whole afternoon without a base to work out of (unless it's the trunk of your car). This is what I call losing half a day of vacation. And most people do drink at dinner in SF. Sorry, but the stress of driving to the airport after drinks and/or a bottle of wine at dinner is MUCH greater than having to be on the road at the crack of 8:30 AM! I personally don't like to drive after drinking. However, I suppose if your primary goal is to be near the airport 12 hours before your flight, then you could give up having a nice meal and wine the night before. After spending all afternoon sightseeing or whatever in your dinner clothes, you probably won't want to go to a nice place anyway. It's certainly not MY style!

easytraveler May 26th, 2008 11:14 AM

Well, Neopat: as a teenager 60-year-old, I can certainly understand your recommendations. :)

You do bring up some great points.

Yes, the need to change for dinner is absolutely paramount. The top hat has to be properly repacked and the dinner jacket as well. Some evening gowns do take up an entire steamer trunk, so I've heard. That's a great consideration - the dinner clothes and then, at night, San Francisco does get cold, so she'll need to have her fur coat ready for the evening and then will have to repack that as well.

Come to think of it, with all that luggage, they need an additional hour just to pack up the car.

Of course, you're correct, they can't leave all that luggage in the car. What was I thinking!

I once saw an elderly East Indian lady returning home and she had a suitcase full of curry powder that she was taking home with her. Curry powder shouldn't be left sitting in the trunk of the car all afternoon and evening.

Just earlier this year, at SFO, I saw another lady who was taking her old SF home TV to her other home in the Philippines. I'm certain that if the OP is taking their old TV set as large as this lady's, it wouldn't fit in the trunk of a car. Certainly hope the OP has an SUV or minivan.

On yet another occasion, I had a visitor from Hong Kong and she spent half her vacation time here shopping at Costco. She must have had five of those big restaurant-size boxes of saranwrap and I don't know hwat else she had packed in her suitcases. We had to use the minivan to take her luggage to the airport - but those were in the good old days when people could check in quite a bit of luggage for free.

Nyetzy - how much curry poweder, TV sets, boxes of saranwrap and steamer trunks of clothing are you taking with you?


Neopat knows I'm joking (I hope!)

AAFrequentFlyer May 26th, 2008 11:22 AM

<i>regardless of where the passenger stays the night before, <u>he/she has to be at the airport TWO HOURS before flight time</u> for an international flight.</i>


I have arrived to airports an hour before international flights and did not have a problem checking in.

(btw, I would not recommend it for SFO), but I just hate it when many here think it's some kind of a rule. IT'S NOT!)

NeoPatrick May 26th, 2008 12:25 PM

very funny, easytraveler. Some of us sweat if we've spent the day walking up and down hills, and we nearly always like to SHOWER and change before going out to dinner -- others obviously not (I've sat beside enough of them to know) -- top hats -- fur coats? Hilarious. I'm sure they can take a blanket and one of them can hold it up as the other stands behind the car in the street changing clothes if they want to. No problem. Just so they don't get arrested for indecent exposure changing clothes while parked on the Embarcadero. Heck, now that I think about it, why should they even get a hotel while in SF -- they could just live out of the trunk of their car!

And there have been dozens of posts of people worried about leaving luggage in the trunks of their cars parked on public streets or in lots. Rightfully so, in my opinion. I'd much prefer to have mine still in my hotel room than in the trunk of a car, thank you. Surely you understood that was the concern, not the &quot;hours&quot; it takes to pack the car, or the case of fine Cabernet or even the Ghiradelli chocolates they packed to take home!

Yes, I know you're joking. I think.

trippinkpj May 26th, 2008 12:31 PM

I don't think anyone said it was a rule, though most of us seem to like the extra time. My daughter, a 23 year old frequent flyer, only allots 50 - 60 minutes for domestic flights (makes me like Kal when I fly with her!). Yet for her international flights she decided to go with the 2 hour &quot;guideline&quot;. FYI, I made her give us 75 minutes for our SFO to NYC flight last fall. We had a good 50 minutes to twiddle our thumbs before boarding. Kal- I didn't need to breathe into a paper bag. ;)

El_Swainer May 26th, 2008 12:44 PM

My method is to stay at an airport hotel when my flight leaves EARLY in the morning.

easytraveler May 26th, 2008 03:49 PM

<i>&quot;And there have been dozens of posts of people worried about leaving luggage in the trunks of their cars parked on public streets or in lots.&quot;</i>

These are for SAN FRANCISCO?

Every year before Christmas we go shopping in San Francisco and our trunk, and sometimes part of the back seat, is filled with Christmas gifts. We usually park and have dinner somewhere before returning home. I've never had a worry about people stealing stuff out of my car trunk when in San Francisco.

However, if the OP is going to bringing her fur coat, yes, maybe they should worry about car theft.

Do you think we've scared the OP away with our wacky humor? :)

BTW, San Francisco is not the East Coast. It's less humid here and, when evening comes, the OP will probably be more in need of a sweater than a shower.

Nyetzy May 26th, 2008 11:37 PM

Whoa! hold your horses need to get so emo over this!!

No, I dont have &quot;curry powder, TV sets, boxes of saranwrap and steamer trunks of clothing to bring with me&quot; but then again, the whole of the US will be on sale, maybe I should consider hmmm...

I think the idea of leaving at 8.30am and have breakfast at SFO is not a bad idea. I cannot imagine checking out the day before before noon and move to another hotel at the airport. Better to spend my last day in SF enjoying myself!!

StuDudley May 27th, 2008 07:08 AM

If you're staying at the Wharf, the drive to SFO is really a &quot;no-brainer&quot;. You get on the Embarcadero, follow the road, and then turn into the airport complex off Hwy 101. More detailed - follow the Embarcadero as it becomes King St (past ATT park), then King becomes Hwy 280, which merges with Hwy 101. No intersections with turns till you get to the airport - you could do this in your sleep. I've never taken this route at 8:30 - but the traffic will probably be in the opposite direction.

Stu Dudley

iamq May 27th, 2008 09:56 AM


Just be grateful you didn't ask about Scoma's and/or Fisherman's Wharf.

dmlove May 27th, 2008 10:27 AM

We drive north past the airport into the city every work day. I purposely checked today -- it was about 8:30, and there was not too much traffic (plenty of cars, but they were moving at the limit) from the city to the airport (it clogs up just south of the airport because the freeway narrows). If you leave your hotel at 8:30, I would bet you will be at the car rental facility by 9:15 at the very latest, and at the terminal by 9:30.

NeoPatrick May 27th, 2008 10:32 AM

&quot;Whoa! hold your horses need to get so emo over this!!&quot;

Who's being emotional? We're just having fun.

Kal May 27th, 2008 08:29 PM

Nobody goes to Scoma's because it's too crowded. :-&quot;

I think we have all learned never to argue about SF or Seattle with a man from FLA.
:)) .... I mean :)&gt;-

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